Fantasticon Report-observations, thoughts and discussions

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 had a really great time at Fantasticon. I was housed in a lovely hotel called Fy & Bi in Valby. We had lovely weather and the walk from the hotel to the cultural center where the con was being held was quite a nice one.

Fantasticon was a very good opportunity to get to meet Danish writers of the fantastic and I loved that I got to find out firsthand about the state of genre in Denmark. I didn’t get to see a lot of bookshops, but I did go back and investigate the shelves of a bookshop I’d visited together with Karin Tidbeck.

The Scandinavian countries seem to share quite a number of things in common when it comes to challenges in genre. I couldn’t help but wish someone would already invent that built-in translator device where you plug yourself in and you can read and understand whatever language is used in whatever country you visit.

Con organizers, Jesper Rugard Jensen and Lars Ahn gave me the lowdown on how genre is doing on the evening that I arrived in Copenhagen. What genre struggles with is the general impression or stereotype that genre has had to struggle with in many places in the world. In Denmark, they find themselves going up against that thing where people call certain things high literature and other things low literature and genre seems to be pushed into this box with a huge label on it marked: FOR CHILDREN.

I’m not very fond of this inclination as I tend to think that literature is whatever’s written and we read it (I’m literal like that). Some literature is bad and some is good. Some I’ll like, some I won’t like. I also think that labels are only helpful for marketing but they don’t really help the people who read.

But not everyone is like me and what these labels mean is that a lot of Danish folk read fantastic and speculative fiction until a certain age and if you’re an adult who still likes science fiction and fantasy, people will look at you askance. This mirrors some of the attitude that I see in The Netherlands and is to some extent similar to what I’ve seen in The Philippines (although it’s gotten much better over there since they’ve started producing soaps that take inspiration from historical characters and epic tales).

Karin Tidbeck told me that this is the same thing they’ve been up against in Sweden. According to Karin, Nene Ormes’s work has played an important role in making fantasy more mainstream as Nene has created this fantastic world that mines Swedish myth and history. I now want to read Nene’s books, but translation takes a lot of time of effort and money and until someone does that, it’s either I wait or learn Swedish. (I wonder if I’ll learn Swedish before translations happen).

A lot of the conversations that we had during the con was about language, the use of language, and translations–the use and the challenges of. It was great to sit in a room with writers and translators who had firsthand experience with translating either their own work or the work of others. It’s heartening to see the spirit of generosity that exists within the community as we see writers who translate work for other writers or translators who give their services all free of charge. It made me wonder though how it would change things if writers didn’t have to expend their energy on translating their work. If professional translators could be paid to do the work, wouldn’t this free up time and energy for writers to write more new work?

While we see very little traffic going outward, where Danish or Swedish writing gets translated into English, there seems to be quite a good bit of translation going on from English. In one of the bookshops, I noticed that they stocked books from popular authors like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. I think I saw Joe Abercrombie on the shelves and Stephen King, but there’s not really much to choose from and there were no local authors at all–well, at least none that sounded Danish or English. In another bookshop, I did see work from Tove Johanssen and Peter Hoeg. But really not very much that I could identify as genre.

20140616_113519[1] I can’t help but think that there’s some connection missing there somehow. Karin talked about how language colonialism, but I wonder if it goes even deeper than that. I’d be speculating at this point, of course…but I can’t help but think I need to do more real research. It seems to me that there should be some way to break through those false barriers that keep people from reading work that’s locally produced.

I find myself wondering if being translated into English affects the way we receive certain works? Does a local being published in the US or the UK affect our perception of that author’s work? To what extent does publication in the US or the UK influence or affect how we receive the work or perceive the author?

A lot of questions that still need to be asked. It makes me think that there’s still quite a bit of work to be done when it comes to breaking the stereotype that people have attached to science fiction and the fantastic in these countries.

(On an aside, it does seem that Anime and Manga are a big thing in Denmark too. So, there’s that as well.)


20140613_115728[1]My thanks again to the con organizers who invited me. To the Danish writers, translators and readers who generously shared of their knowledge, their experiences and the challenges they face in genre. Thank you. It was hyggeligt. :D

 

Fantasticon

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I’ll be leaving tomorrow evening for Copenhagen, Denmark, where Fantasticon is taking place. The past weeks have been quite busy. I’ve been working and experimenting with language and the new work that I’ve produced incorporates Filipino, Ilokano and Ifugao into the body of the text in more definite way than before. I was thinking of how many of us have been compelled to write in English and I find myself wondering how stories and texts would change if I used the languages I grew up with into my stories. I’ve incorporated the language mindfully, fitting the texts to the story that is taking shape.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked into writing an essay, I thought I’d post my schedule for Fantasticon:

Saturday:

11.00-12.00, Room 1
Translation of Speculative Fiction (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz) – English

13.00-14.00, Room 3
GoH Interview: Rochita-Loenen Ruiz (I: Karin Tidbeck) – English

15.00-16.00, Room 1
GoH Readings: Paul McAuley & Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – English

16.00-17.00, Room 3
Panel: Challenging Stereotypes in SF and Fantasy (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz,
Karin Tidbeck, A. Silvestri & Lars Ahn Pedersen) – English

Sunday:

17.00-18.00, Room 3
Panel: Is There Still Need for Science Fiction in a Science Fictional
World? (Paul McAuley, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Klaus Æ. Mogensen &
Flemming R. P. Rasch) – English

In preparation, I’ve done some reading up on previous cons and dipped a bit into the history of sf/f in Denmark. I look forward to meeting fellow writers and lovers of the speculative and hope for stimulating and fruitful conversations.

New Process Conversation up on the book blog

Drop by and check out A Process Conversation with Anil Menon and Vandana Singh. I’m so pleased we’re able to feature this interview on the blog and I readers enjoy it too.

“I think we’re going to be seeing a major breakout of some truly radical SFF from the rest of the world, including Indian writers. But attitude and high expectations are key.”

Go there to read more.

More things I should be posting about

Cristina Jurado interviewed me for El Fantascopio and the interview has gone live. You can read it in Spanish here and in English here. It’s heartwarming to find out that readers in Spain have also read some of my work and I want to thank Cristina and El Fantascopio for thinking of me and for taking the time to interview me.

The latest installment of my Movements column, Brown Woman at Work, was published on Strange Horizons. I write about navigating the waters of being a writing mother in a conservative Dutch community and how important it is to write truthfully.

I was thinking about process and how I write and why I am unable to bring myself to write to a formula. I tweeted about how writing these columns feels like going naked and Kate Elliott tweeted back and reminded me that all writing that matters is a little bit naked.

I want to always approach my work in a mindful way–writing what I believe in and writing truthfully. Some truths are very hard to write about and there are some truths that I still struggle with, but I am getting there.

So many things and so little time

I’ve updated the book blog with the long-delayed publication of Wesley Chu’s interview. I’m missing the collaboration that I had with my big sister and I’m really sorry that she’s had to bow out of reviewing. I have a few more interviews on file and after I post those, I think the book blog will change into a reading blog where I talk about books and short fiction that I’ve read.

There’s been little time to update this blog and so I’m sharing a clump of news in this one post. For one, I’m finally able to announce that my Bloodchildren story, Dancing in the Shadow of the Once, will be appearing in the Mammoth Book of SF by Women edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane.  Dancing in the Shadow of the Once is one of the stories that I’m proudest of. When the email came in, I jumped up and down with joy and that happiness has kept me going throughout the dark months.

The Hugo shortlist for 2014 has been announced and I’m tickled pink to see that Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin is a finalist for Best Related Work. My essay, Decolonizing as an SF Writer, is in this volume. You can read the essay here, but you can also purchase a copy of the book and read all the goodness inside. All proceeds from sales go to Room to Read.  

The shortlist for the Shirley Jackson Awards has also been announced and Jonathan Oliver’s The End of the Road anthology has been shortlisted for best Anthology. Jonathan Oliver put a lot of work into making this an anthology that’s inclusive and diverse and I’m very pleased to see the anthology receiving recognition from his peers. Also, secretly tickled because Dagiti Timayap Garda is in this anthology and in a way, I feel like Ifugao has now been put on the genre map.

There’s still quite a bit to post, but I’ll keep that for another time. In the meantime, I wanted to share this piece of art created by James Ng. I’m completely blown away by how this image that he’s created for my short story, The Construct Also Dreams of Flight which is in the upcoming Steampunk World anthology edited by Sarah Hans.

13Do check out the hashtag #SteamPunkWorld or check out https://twitter.com/jamesngart for more SteamPunk World interior art.

 

On the book blog: An interview with Kaaron Warren

Head over and check out this interview with Kaaron Warren over at the book blog.

Walking the Tree is a much different novel from Slights. I really liked this difference and I loved the world of the Tree as well as your beautifully drawn characters. Would you like to share a bit about the inspiration for the world of the Tree?

The original idea came from a number of different sources. Most directly, I was watching a documentary about ancient objects and was struck with the thought that these things sit there, well beyond human understanding, interpretation and memory. That they exist long after their original meaning is lost. In the end, there is a disconnect between the object and its origin.

Go to the book blog to read more.